|08-02-2008, 01:39 PM||#1|
Join Date: Mar 2006
The Methodology of Seeking Knowledge
The Methodology of Seeking Knowledge
By Shaykh Saalih ibn ‘Abdul-Aziz Aali ash-Shaykh
Translated by Abu az-Zubayr Shadeed Muhammad
Many of the young students of knowledge read a variety of different books, at times relating to hadeeth and at others relating to tafseer or fiqh. They listen to many lectures and attend the circles of knowledge, but if they would stop for a moment and re-evaluate themselves, as some of them attend these lectures for one year and some for two years, they would realise that they never fully comprehended these lectures which they were attending, or they would realise that the benefit was not all that tremendous.
This is because they did not acquire a knowledge based foundation before attending these lectures, which would have allowed them to format and comprehend the information they were absorbing, and would have enabled them to follow the correct path when seeking knowledge. Hence the sole reason for this deficiency in their comprehension and understanding is the lack of an accurate systematic knowledge based methodology when seeking knowledge.
It is imperative for the student to develop and follow a distinctive and systematic method in his search for knowledge, and if he fails to do so, he will eventually fail in his quest for knowledge. It is because of this that we see many students become bored and loose interest for seeking knowledge, and after a few years he abandons the path of seeking knowledge all together. You will find after a few years that this same individual eventually returns to his original state of being just a layman from the Muslims, or from those who suffice themselves with reading from books.
We want the individual who is embarking upon the path of seeking knowledge to adorn himself with two very important characteristics:
The first: To follow the same systematic path of seeking knowledge as those who came before you from the People of knowledge, those who, after following this path eventually became scholars.
The second: To condition yourself in exerting every effort possible in seeking knowledge, by giving knowledge all of your time without becoming bored or losing your aspiration for knowledge regardless of the difficulties you may encounter.
Al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee (rahimahullaah) mentioned in one of his monumental books [Jam’i Akhlaq ar-Raawi wa A’dab us-Sam’i] that one of the students of knowledge in the science of hadeeth from the Salaf had a very strong desire for seeking knowledge, but he aspired to gather all of the knowledge at one time by sitting in all the circles of knowledge.
Then after some time he began to realise that he was not benefiting from the knowledge which he was trying to acquire, and he said to himself:
“This path of seeking knowledge is really not for me!”
Consequently he abandoned the circles of knowledge all together considering himself to be incompetent and lack understanding of the various intricate matters of knowledge, or he thought that it was not meant for him to be a student of knowledge. So one day he came across a boulder which appeared to be eroding due to the trickles of water which were falling on top of it.
So he pondered over this for a moment and said:
“This water along with its softness is eroding this boulder along with its coarseness. My heart and intellect are not harder than this boulder, nor is water softer than knowledge.”
So he decided to return to the path of seeking knowledge and was patient until he eventually became from the most prominent scholars of his time.
This will show you that in order to be a true student of knowledge you have to possess strong determination and ambition which will safeguard you from becoming discouraged.
The student should not say: “I studied but I really did not benefit much,” as if he is saying that he did not comprehend. The lack of understanding is not the reason why many of the youth who embark upon the path of seeking knowledge fail to grasp the details of the information which they hear. Rather most of them comprehend, but the reason why they don’t benefit as much from their knowledge is because they have not acquired the knowledge by following the correct methodology.
They did not follow the path of the people of knowledge who came before them. This path is very simple and much easier than the path that many of the youth who have embarked upon seeking knowledge today have taken. If this point is understood, then there is a very important question which many of the youth ask which is: “What is the most correct methodology in seeking knowledge?” And: “How does the student of knowledge follow the path of seeking knowledge in light of the methodology of those came before him, and if Allaah gives him success on this path, he will eventually become a true student of knowledge?”
This question is extremely important, and there is no doubt that attending the circles of knowledge is very beneficial, and the most tremendous benefit which the student will find in this is when he leaves these circles he understands and comprehends what was mentioned, and he is able to disseminate that information to others in a manner which they can comprehend.
The student of knowledge should possess specific characteristics and etiquettes which he adorns himself with constantly in his quest for seeking knowledge:
Firstly: The most vital and important characteristic is that he has to be sincere to his Lord in seeking knowledge. This is due to the fact that seeking knowledge is ‘ibaadah (i.e. worship) and the noble angels lay down their wings out of respect for the student of knowledge as it was mentioned in the authentic hadeeth [Sunan of Abu Daawood From the famous hadeeth of Abu ad-Dardaa’ (radee Allaahu ‘anhu), 2/341]. So the fact that seeking knowledge is an act of worship necessitates that it has to fulfil the condition of being done solely for the sake of Allaah in order for it to be acceptable to Him.
Meaning, he does not seek knowledge to obtain worldly status, he does not seek knowledge of the legislation of Allaah, knowledge of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah to obtain reputation or to become a teacher or lecturer or someone who everybody is turning their attention towards or the likes of these lowly aims and ambitions. Rather his sole intention for seeking knowledge is to worship Allaah with the knowledge he is acquiring upon baseerah and to rid himself of ignorance.
Imaam Ahmad (rahimahullaah) was asked:
“How does one have sincerity while seeking knowledge?”
“Having sincerity while seeking knowledge is by making your intention to remove ignorance from yourself, because the one who is knowledgeable is not the same as the one who is ignorant.”
Then he recited the statement of Allaah:
“Is he who is obedient to Allaah, prostrating himself and standing in prayer during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the Mercy of his Lord (like the one who disbelieves)? Say: “Are those who know equal to those who don’t know?” [Az-Zumar 39:9]
And the statement of Allaah:
“Allaah will exalt in degrees those of you who believe and those who have been given knowledge…” [Mujadilah 58:11]
Thus Allaah has given the People of Knowledge preference over others, and the one who seeks knowledge to worship Allaah upon baseerah and to rid himself of ignorance in order to live his life in accordance to what Allaah has legislated, then this individual has truly obtained ikhlaas in his search for knowledge, due to the fact that he sought the Face of Allaah and freed himself from blindly following his desires ignorantly.
There are many books which have been written on the etiquettes of the student of knowledge, some small treatises and others more extensive and lengthy.
|08-02-2008, 01:40 PM||#2|
Join Date: Mar 2006
Secondly: The student should be moderate in his search for knowledge, as the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) informed us about Allaah:
“Indeed Allaah loves gentleness in everything…” [Reported by al-Bukhaaree, 5/2242]
This is general and applies to every situation, he (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also said:
“Gentleness is not put into anything except that it beautifies it…” [Reported by Muslim, 4/2004]
This also includes seeking knowledge. So how does the student become moderate in seeking knowledge? His is such by not trying to gather all of the matters of knowledge at one time, just as it was mentioned by Imaam az-Zuhree (rahimahullaah) who was a well known Tabi’ee:
“Whoever seeks to acquire knowledge all at once, then it will go away from him all at once, rather knowledge is sought by the passing away of many days and nights (i.e. in time).”
This principle was eloquently explained by the poet who said:
“Today knowledge and tomorrow the like of it and through this process the individual will obtain the wisdom he needs, for the river becomes such by the gathering of droplets of water.”
Hence moderation is required when seeking knowledge and the student can not obtain this moderation by trying to acquire knowledge all at once. For example, the student desires to acquire all the knowledge of tafseer so he goes and reads ‘Tafseer ibn Jareer’ [i.e. Jaa’mi ul-Bayan at-Ta’weel il-Qur’aan by the Imam, the Mufassir, Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jareer at Tabari (rahimahullaah)] along with the fact that ‘Tafseer ibn Jareer’ is a very extensive and comprehensive book which all the other explanations of the Qur’aan is dependant on.
The individual who does this has sought to acquire knowledge all at one once in that he started and ended with one of the most extensive works in the field of tafseer. If you were to ask him how much he comprehended from this book you will find that he only understood a little. He can remember that he read such and such from the explanation of certain verses be he lacks the ability to explain to you what he understood in a manner which consistent with the true meaning of the verse.
It is imperative for the student of knowledge to learn these matters moderately and gradually which is actually from the Sunnah and a vital etiquette in the realm of seeking knowledge. Likewise the individual who desires to study the science of hadeeth, he hastily begins with ‘Nayl ul-Awtar’ [of Imaam Muhammad ibn ‘Alee ash-Shawkani (rahimahullaah)] or ‘Fath ul-Bari’ [Explanation of Saheeh al-Bukhaaree by al-Haafidh Ahmad ibn ‘Alee ibn Hajr al-Asqalaani (rahimahullaah)], know that this individual will never acquire knowledge in light of methodology of the People of Knowledge who came before him.
He resembles the one who reads books and magazines on current affairs, he has some scattered pieces of information but this is not, in essence, true foundational knowledge.
Also in the matters of Fiqh, if you ask him: “What books have you read from the matters of Fiqh?” He will reply that: “I am currently reading ‘Al-Mughni’,” [of Imaam Muwafaq ud-Deen Abu Muhammad ‘Abdullaah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdisee (rahimahullaah)] or “I am reading ‘Al-Majmoo’,” [of Imaam an-Nawawee] and it is safe to say that this individual is not moderate in seeking knowledge due to the fact that by this methodology of his, he is seeking to acquire all of the knowledge at once. ‘Al-Mughni’ and ‘Al-Majmoo’ are two of the most extensive and comprehensive books in the field of fiqh and they tackle some of the major and most complicated matters of the People of Knowledge in the matters of fiqh.
Therefore the new student should not begin his quest for seeking knowledge by reading these types of books from beginning to end. There is no doubt that these books are resources for him when he needs to research a matter, and he should refer to them and other extensive books in the field of fiqh if the situation necessitates this, but he should not read them from front to back for the sake of saying that he read them.
Also from the branches of being moderate when seeking knowledge is that the student, at the beginning of his quest for knowledge, should not emphasise greatly the extensive details of certain knowledge based issues which he is studying. If he neglects this principle then he is eventually going to forget many of the fundamental matters, and by such, he is going to defeat his purpose of seeking knowledge. The lack of a firm academic foundation causes the student to neglect the necessary principles which will enable him to comprehend the specifics of certain issues relating to knowledge.
Some of us attend lessons which are extensive and very detailed for many years and sometimes completing these lessons or certain chapters from them. You find some students sit for six months at a time attending these lessons and they believe they are truly acquiring knowledge but this is not the case. This is not the correct methodology in seeking knowledge rather they neglected the principle of moderation. Allaah says:
“…be you Rubaaniyoon because you are teaching the book and because you are studying it.” [Aali Imran 3:79]
Imaam al-Bukhaaree (rahimahullaah) explained the meaning of the word ‘Rubaani’ in his Saheeh:
“The ‘Rubaani’ is the scholar who nurtures the people with the simple matters of knowledge before the difficult ones.” [Reported by al-Bukhaaree, 1/37]
It is neither virtuous nor appropriate for the scholar or the student of knowledge to mention to those whom he is teaching all of what he knows about a particular issue of knowledge. The teacher only gives to those who is listening to him what is necessary for them to understand the issue at hand and he avoids giving them what is above their comprehension. Therefore it is imperative for the student of knowledge to be moderate in his search for knowledge and learn at a gradual pace because if he learns in this manner then he will teach and disseminate the information which he has in the same manner.
Thirdly: The student should give seeking knowledge the best of his time. He should not devote the time when his mind is busy with something else or when his comprehension level is low to seeking knowledge. Give knowledge the best of your time, the time in which your mind is free and your comprehension level is high. This issue is connected to another matter which is; the student of knowledge should busy himself with knowledge all day and all night until his mind becomes so immersed in knowledge that his sole aspiration is knowledge. Even when he wants to sleep there is a book next to him because there may be an issue he wants to review before he goes to sleep, and because of this, some of the Salaf used to say:
“If you see the books of a student of knowledge neatly placed in order on the book shelf then know that he is a student that doesn’t read, rather he has abandoned his books.”
Meaning, he does not take the time necessary to understand the intricate matters of knowledge, rather he spends the same amount of time as someone who reads books and magazines on current affairs. The student does not have what is commonly called ‘reading time’ due to the fact that all of his time is devoted to seeking knowledge; rather he wakes up in the morning and goes to sleep at night while his mind is completely focused on the matters of knowledge.
During his years of adolescence, when he is in the prime of his life, he should take advantage of this time to acquire a tremendous amount of knowledge because he has a substantial amount of time to devote totally to seeking knowledge. His most precious time, where his intellect and conscious is free, he should choose to read those subjects which he is in dire need of like fiqh and usool-ul-fiqh and those subject similar to them, because these subjects deserve the best of his time, the time where his concentration and ability to grasp detailed information is at its best, and those times where his concentration is not that great, he should choose those subject matters which do not require his full attention like tafseer or mustalah hadeeth [i.e. hadeeth terminologies] or the likes of the subjects.
Likewise, those times when his concentration is weak he should choose to read subjects like adab [i.e. etiquettes and manners] and those books which contain the biographies of the Salaf, the books of Islamic history and their likes. So, the student is constantly busy with seeking knowledge whenever and wherever he is, and he does not allow himself to be distracted from this by taking breaks, leisure time or even by his closest friends.
The main shortcoming I see with those who consider themselves to be students of knowledge is that they spend countless hours in gatherings which consist of ‘he said she said’ and conversations which are totally void of the matters of knowledge, and they are on different levels, but those who indulge in such behaviour are not truly students of knowledge.
As for the student of knowledge, his aspirations and desires are all devoted to seeking knowledge and those gathering which contain the mention of knowledge based issues and conversations about academic matters relating to the religion or clarification of some matters Allaah revealed in His Book or those found in the Sunnah of the Messenger (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). These are the types of gatherings where the heart finds tranquillity and they consist of teaching and clarification of academic matters of the religion.
So it is imperative for the student of knowledge to adorn himself with these beautiful etiquettes and characteristics, and that he continuously busies himself with seeking knowledge, and that he doesn’t give seeking knowledge some of his time, rather he devotes all of his time or majority of it, especially during the time of his youth where acquiring knowledge is much easier. Some of the Salaf used to say:
“If you give knowledge all of you it might give you some of it”
This is because knowledge is opulent and the matters relating to it are various and abundant, and because of this, when one of the Imaams of hadeeth was on his death bed he would say to the one responsible for recording his narrations:
“Record this knowledge! Perhaps you can benefit from it even in these last few moments!”
This shows you his sincerity and devote following of the Sunnah and the fact that his heart was totally immersed in knowledge. When Imaam Ahmad (rahimahullaah) was on his death bed during his final sickness which was, at times, very painful some of his students came to visit him and narrated to him with the chain from Muhammad ibn Sireen on the authority of ‘Anas ibn Maalik (radee Allaahu ‘anhu) that he disliked moaning during the pangs of sickness, and after they mentioned this narration to Imaam Ahmad one of them said: “I never heard him whimper until he died!”
There is a beneficial point in this for the student of knowledge and the scholar and that is, he does not know what Allaah will place in his future of good, and his main objective should be seeking knowledge night and day. Another point to mention is that he should never belittle the benefit that comes to him, whether by way of someone who is less than him in knowledge or above him. You find some people that if a benefit comes to him from someone who is less than him in knowledge, he becomes arrogant or he is not completely attentive to him due to the fact that he considers himself above him in knowledge. But he fails to realise that when he does this he forfeits the benefit of knowledge.
It is possible to find that someone who is less in knowledge can possess something that, he who is greater in knowledge, doesn’t have. The scholars use as an example of this the story of Sulaymaan (‘alayhis-salaam) and the bird (i.e. Hudhuda). The bird along with its lowly status in the eyes of the human being and the superior status of Sulaymaan with Allaah and the rest of creation, the bird said to Sulaymaan:
“…I have grasped the knowledge of a thing which you have not grasped, and I have come to you from Saba’ with tremendous news.” [An-Naml 27: 22]
So the bird taught Sulaymaan (‘alayhis-salaam) what he was ignorant of and the People of Knowledge extract the principle from this story that you should not be arrogant towards the one who brings you some knowledge you can benefit from, whether he is more knowledgeable than you or not. Rather you should humble yourself and listen to him because this opens many doors for you.
These are a few very important characteristics and etiquettes for the student of knowledge, there are many others which are detailed in the books which concentrate on this particular subject matter. But now we want to concentrate on the most important question which is: “How does the student of knowledge become moderate in his search for knowledge and tread this path gradually?” And: “What is the most effective methodology in seeking knowledge?”
Most Effective Methodology:
But now we want to concentrate on the most important question which is: “How does the student of knowledge become moderate in his search for knowledge and tread this path gradually?” And “What is the most effective methodology in seeking knowledge?”
The response to this question is that the legislative sciences are various and abundant, from them are those which are foundational and from them are those which are secondary and assist the student of knowledge in his understanding of the essentials of the religion, and these types of subjects are referred to as academic tools.
The foundational sciences are the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, meaning the sciences of tafseer. hadeeth, fiqh and the sciences of tawheed, which are all extracted from the Qur’aan and the Sunnah and the true understanding of these sciences, is a branch from the understanding of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah.
Hence the foundational subjects for the student of knowledge are as follows:
And those academic tools which assist the student in his understanding of these matters are:
Usool at-Tafseer or what is commonly known as the Sciences of the Qur’aan
Usool al-Hadeeth or what is commonly known as Mustalah Hadeeth
Nahwu (i.e. Arabic grammar) and its various branches and sciences
There is also another category which the scholars mention will assist the student in his understanding of the foundational subjects which are the books which concentrate on the biographies of the Salaf, the various dictionaries and books of Islamic history.
|08-02-2008, 01:40 PM||#3|
Join Date: Mar 2006
The new student of knowledge should begin learning the subject of tafseer gradually, step by step. He should start with the extremely concise books of tafseer, reading them to understand the meanings entailed in the speech of Allaah, the Qur’aan, especially if he is someone who has memorised the whole Qur’aan, as this is the most beneficial thing for him to start with. The later generation from the People of Knowledge greatly emphasised ‘Tafseer Jalalayn’ [of Imaam as-Suyuti] which is very beneficial but caution should be taken as it relates to the inaccurate interpretation of certain verses.
The student should start off by reading the explanation of those verses which he is accustomed to hearing in the Salaah. Begin with the first section, understanding their meanings concisely, as ‘Tafseer Jalalayn’ is very concise and it only consists of two small volumes. Once you have read through fifty pages then you have completed the first section, understood and comprehended what you hear daily from the Qur’aan in the Salaah and so you now have a clear understanding of what is being recited.
How do you know that you have understood this concise version of tafseer and that you are ready to move on to the next level? The reply is that if you have the ability to explain a Surah from what you have read, to yourself, for example, you read the tafseer of Surah ash-Shams from ‘Tafseer Jalalayn’ and you understood what you read, you know that you have truly understood when you can close the book and begin to reiterate what you read from the tafseer of that Surah without relying on the book. If you are successful at this, then you have elevated in your comprehension of tafseer and maybe you can move to the next level, and this particular methodology is detailed in the same manner as it relates to subjects other than tafseer.
So the first book in the subject of tafseer the new student of knowledge should start with is ‘Tafseer Jalalayn’ and after this he can move on to the more extensive books of tafseer like ‘Tafseer as-Sa’dee’ or ‘Tafseer ibn Kathir’ or smaller books of tafseer if they exist, as long as they are void of any inconsistencies and false interpretations. He should read through them in a manner where he can understand the meanings entailed in the verses, because the information in these books are obviously much more extensive and detailed than the small amount information which he read in ‘Tafseer Jalalayn.’
Once he familiarises himself with the information from these other extensive books of tafseer, his understanding is going to be less ambiguous. He read and understood the tafseer of Surah ash-Shams but when he reads these extensive works like Ibn Kathir or ‘Tafseer al-Baghawi’ then he is going to compare and realise the influx of information which he has acquired in relation to what he read and understood previously. If he continues in this manner after some time, he will realise that he truly understands the speech of Allaah.
Secondly: TawheedTawheed is two types:
The first: ‘Aqeedah (i.e. Creed)
The second: Tawheed al-‘Ibaadah
The first type is the knowledge of Tawheed which you are going to study, inshaa’Allaah, as a creed and there are many books which have been written on this particular subject matter and from them ‘Lum’at al-I’tiqaad’ [i.e. ‘Sufficiency in Creed’ by Ibn Qudaamah al Maqdisee], ‘Al-‘Aqeedah al-Wasitiyyah’ [of Shaykh-ul-Islam ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah)], ‘Aqeedah at-Tahawiyyah [of Abu Ja’far Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Salaamah al-Masri at-Tahawi al-Hanafi (rahimahullaah)] and many others. These particular works concentrate specifically on the matters of creed, matters related to Eemaan (i.e. belief in Allaah), His Names and Attributes, His Lordship (i.e. Ruboobiyah) and those issues connected to these like belief in the Angles, the Books, the Messengers, the Last Day and those events that are going to take place on that Day.
They also focus on the matters of the grave and those related to Paradise and the Hellfire and the variety of people that are going to dwell in them, and the issues of the Qadr. They also focus on the more detailed and specific matters like those related to the ‘Awliyaa and their miracles, the Sahaabah (radee Allaahu ‘anhum), leadership and the intricate details surrounding it. Matters related to enjoining good and forbidding evil, etiquettes and manners.
The ‘aqeedah of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah should be studied gradually, step by step and the student should begin with a small concise book which he should read to someone proficient in that field and if there is any ambiguity in what is being read then he should ask about it. It is imperative for the student to begin with reading the concise books on tawheed for example, take the very concise text of ‘Lum’at al-I’tiqaad’, if you have memorised it then this is excellent and what is actually required of you but if you find difficulty in memorising it, then at least read it a number of times in order that you familiarise yourself with it and comprehend its subject matter.
From the many mistakes which the students of knowledge fall into is that they choose a book to read, and before doing so they have neither read nor understood its subject matter. They read a particular paragraph from it and when they don’t understand it they come to the scholar for a detailed explanation. This is incorrect; rather the appropriate thing to do is learn the subject matter of the book before delving into it. ‘Lum’at al-I’tiqaad’ is a small book which you can read from beginning to end and easily understand its structure and the issues which are being presented in it. Then after you finish reading it you should read it to a scholar or someone who is proficient in the field of ‘aqeedah.
This is one of the first books the new student of knowledge should start with because the issues that it deals with are concise and unambiguous and it establishes principles that, if the student comprehends them, then he has acquired a tremendous amount of knowledge about the matters of ‘aqeedah and is ready to move on to the next level which is ‘Al-‘Aqeedah al-Wasitiyyah’ and his methodology with this book is the same as we have mentioned previously with the first one.
After this, how does he know that he has accurately understood the matters of ‘aqeedah? Some people read but when it comes time to reiterate verbally what they have read they express themselves using terminologies which are not consistent with the legislation or in a manner which is un-academic showing that he never truly understood what he was reading initially. Why is this? The reason is because he did not test himself while he was reading to see whether or not he really understood this subject matter.
So when you read a chapter from the book ‘Aqeedah al-Wasitiyyah’ actually study it with yourself by saying for example: “Shaykh-ul-Islam ibn Taymiyyah mentions in the introduction to his book ‘Aqeedah al-Wasitiyyah that the creed of the Saved Sect, Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah…” Then begin to explain who the Saved Sect is and who is Ahlus-Sunnah until you are sure within yourself that you have indeed comprehended the meanings of these terminologies.
Likewise in the chapter of the Names and Attributes of Allaah for example, the characteristic of Allaah, Uloo’, Istiwa’a and the fact that He is above His Throne, in a manner that befits His Majesty, you mention what was presented about these terminologies and their meanings from the explanation of the book which you read, and this is how you acquire knowledge. And this is what the scholars call Muthakarah (i.e. studying).
There are narrations which mention that Imaam Ahmad and Abu Zur’ah, Ubaydullah ibn ‘Abdul-Kareem (rahimahullaah) who was a well known Imaam, that they prayed Salaat al-Eshaa’ together and afterwards they went into Imaam Ahmad’s house, and suddenly before they knew it, the adhan for Salaat al-Fajr was being called, and this is because they spent the whole night reviewing the matters of knowledge.
We pose a question here: “How does the student review his knowledge?” The reply: He along with one of his fellow students get together, this one mentions the chain of narrators of the hadeeth and the other mentions the appropriate text, and this one mentions the text of the hadeeth and the other mentions what the scholars mention about its explanation and the issues of fiqh which are connected to it, and in this manner they revise their knowledge and this assists the student in his understanding and helps him to keep his knowledge firm.
However, to just attend the lessons of the of the scholar, listen and leave, and the only thing that remains with you from his lesson is the last thing you heard him say before you left, then this individual will not acquire knowledge in this manner. He listened and benefited from the lesson and perhaps he may even be rewarded, inshaa’Allaah, but he will not acquire knowledge nor will he develop an academic foundation for himself in this manner.
Therefore, the sign to show you whether or not you understood is to close the book and reiterate the explanation which you read, and if you truly understood then your explanation will be accurate and there will be no confusion in your comprehension. But if there is some inconsistency in your understanding you will notice it during the course of your explanation and you will also notice your frequent use of expressions which are inaccurate, all pointing towards the fact that you really don’t understand. This is considering the fact that you were certain you did while you were reading, but after testing yourself you began to realise the shortcomings in your comprehension.
This is why you have to re-evaluate yourself, because if you do not have the ability to explain a portion of what you read or a paragraph of it then this means that you need to read it again and avoid moving on to the next level until you become proficient in this one.
In the past, students of knowledge would attend the lessons of their Shaykh who would teach them and at night the students would gather together to review what they learned. Each one would close his book and turn to the person next to him and explain to him what he understood from the lesson earlier. This is an excellent way to review your knowledge which is to have one close companion, and no more than this, to revise with. He explains to you and you explain to him and during the course of this, the mistakes in your understanding will become apparent and likewise the mistakes in his understanding and you can both assist one another in correcting them.
When you have completely understood ‘Aqeedah al-Wasitiyyah’ then you should move on to the next level which is ‘Hamawiyyah,’ and if you desire you can move on to ‘Aqeedah Tahawiyyah’ and there is nothing wrong with this because after you have understood ‘Aqeedah Wasitiyyah’ completely you have the ability to comprehend any of the books of Shaykh-ul-Islam (rahimahullaah) by the permission of Allaah.
What I find most amazing is that some students open ‘Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa’ and they still haven’t comprehended the fundamentals of the creed! A day where he is tired, ten to fifteen minutes right before he goes to sleep he says: “Let me read something from Majmoo’ al-Fataawaa!” Then he opens it and begins to read and afterwards he wants to debate about a particular issue that, in reality, he himself doesn’t even understand! This happens many times.
You find this student he comes and says that Shaykh-ul-Islam said such and such but if you go back to that same reference you will notice that Shaykh-ul-Islam did not say that. This is because he gave his reading and comprehension of that particular matter a portion of his time where his concentration was not paramount, and secondly is because he is not proficient in fundamental principles of the creed, so as a result, his understanding of the speech of the scholars in this issue is not exact.
What is more amazing is that this same individual has not even memorised ‘Aqeedah Wasitiyyah’, ‘Hamawiyyah’ or ‘Lum’at al-I’tiqaad’ and he wants to read the books of the Salaf like ‘As-Sunnah’ by ‘Abdullaah the son of Imam Ahmad (rahimahullaah), ‘Kitaab al Eemaan’ by Ibn Mundah (rahimahullaah), ‘Kitaab at-Tawheed’ by Ibn Khuzaymah (rahimahullaah), ‘Kitaab at-Tawheed’ by Ibn Mundah and the likes of these comprehensive works which contain the intricate matters of ‘aqeedah and are not detailed the likes of what we find in the books of the scholars today.
If you are firmly grounded in the fundamental principles then your understanding of the statements of the Salaf will be accurate and consistent and by this you will develop as a student of knowledge inshaa’Allaah. You memorised and understood the statements of the Salaf and then you connect them to the issues and foundational matters which you studied in ‘aqeedah without taking them out of their context.
For example, it was mentioned in the beginning of the book ‘Lum’at al-I’tiqaad’ where the author stated in the chapter of belief in the Names and Attributes of Allaah: “Without (asking) how and without meaning.” Can the student who does not understand the fundamental principles of this particular chapter possibly understand what was intended here? When he reads the books of the Salaf he has to have knowledge of the fundamental principles which will assist him in understanding these precise terminologies and phrases of the Salaf.
And if he lacks this understanding then he should refer those matters which are confusing to him back to the scholars who are proficient in these areas because they posses knowledge about these issues which others don’t have. If you don’t have the time which is necessary for this, then it is possible that you can go to those teachers who are proficient and firmly grounded in knowledge provided the conditions are met.
|08-02-2008, 01:41 PM||#4|
Join Date: Mar 2006
The first thing the student of knowledge should begin memorising is the ‘Forty Hadeeth’ by Imaam an-Nawawee (rahimahullaah), and I am almost positive that if I asked those who are present now, how many of you have memorised the ‘Forty Hadeeth’ by Imaam an-Nawawee most of you would say no, but yet most of the students have moved on to more extensive and comprehensive books like ‘Nayl al-Awtar’ or ‘Subul as-Salaam’ or ‘Fath al-Bari,’ but the ‘Forty Hadeeth’ by Imaam an-Nawawee is the foundation.
Go back to those books which concentrate on the biographies of the later day scholars and read their biographies, you will not find that anyone of them began seeking knowledge by reading the more extensive and lengthy works of hadeeth.
For example you will not find that any of scholars from the Salaf began seeking knowledge by reading ‘Fath al-Bari’ or ‘Majmoo’ [of Imaam an Nawawee], but you will find that he memorised the ‘Forty Hadeeth’ by Imaam an-Nawawee, ‘Al-Mulhah’ in the Arabic grammar, ‘Al-Umdah’ in fiqh and ‘Umdaht al-Ahkam.’ These are the concise books that he will mention that he memorised, but why? Because of two reasons:
The first: To show you the correct methodology of studying and seeking knowledge
The second: To show you the degree and level of that scholar and that his knowledge was firmly embedded and foundational due to the fact that he began with these concise works, memorised them studied them with the scholars of his time and did not precede until they were understood. The detailed issues contained in these books can only be grasped after you are firmly grounded in the fundamental principles of hadeeth.
So in the field of hadeeth the student should begin with memorising the ‘Forty Hadeeth’ by Imaam an-Nawawee, and memorising it is imperative, but if you find difficulty in doing so then you should read it everyday until it becomes easy for you to memorise just as you memorised Surah al-Fatihah, and complete it every week and every time you complete it your understanding of it will increase.
After memorising the ‘Forty Hadeeth’ you should read one of the explanations of it and if you can read it to one of the scholars then this is what is recommended and if not then you should read it and familiarise yourself with the explanation of those hadeeth and ask the scholars if there is any discrepancies about anything.
The most extensive explanation of the ‘Forty Hadeeth’ is by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali al-Haafidh (rahimahullaah) [Jaami’ al-Uloom wal-Hikam] and the more concise explanation of it is by Ibn Daqeeq al-‘Eed (rahimahullaah) and there are many other explanations. So read the explanation of these ahaadeeth, for example, when you finish reading the explanation of the hadeeth: “Indeed actions are by intentions…”
[The first hadeeth in the ‘Forty Hadeeth’ by Imaam an Nawawee on the authority of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (radee Allaahu ‘anhu] close the book and begin to explain the hadeeth in light of what you read from its explanation and this will benefit you tremendously especially if you want to give some sort of admonition or reminder in the masjid.
Due to the fact that you have memorised and understood the explanation of the ‘Forty Hadeeth’ you have the ability to choose any hadeeth and begin with its explanation and this will be extremely beneficial, or you might be needed to do a khutbah on jumu’ah. There may be a masjid where many students of knowledge frequent and each one points to the other when it comes time to give the khutbah.
It is extremely important for the student of knowledge to always be prepared wherever he may be, and the least amount of preparation is to have a few verses from the Qur’aan memorised which are particular to the issues of fiqh or otherwise along with the tafseer of those verses, for example, Surah al-’Asr and its tafseer, Surah al-Ikhlaas or other than this or the ‘Forty Hadeeth’ by Imaam an Nawawee along with its explanation.
It is extremely important for the student to have this type of foundation which will assist him in his search for knowledge by the permission of Allaah. After this he should move on to ‘Umdaht al-Ahkam fil-Hadeeth’ and after that he should move on to ‘Bulugh al Maram’ and if he notices within himself that he has the ability and wants to move directly to memorising ‘Bulugh al-Maram’ then there is no problem with this and if not then he should begin with what we mentioned previously.
There is nothing wrong with the student reading the other compilations of the Sunnah like Saheeh al-Bukhaaree, Saheeh Muslim and others, but the student of knowledge should not begin initially with reading these books especially if he is not grounded in the fundamental principles of fiqh, as these books contain many hadeeth you may come across and you don’t understand their meanings and it is possible that some of these hadeeth may have some sort of apparent inconsistency between them or entail some detailed fiqh related issues which may cause some difficulty or confusion for you.
|08-02-2008, 01:42 PM||#5|
Join Date: Mar 2006
The new student of knowledge should begin with ‘Umdaht al-Fiqh’ by Ibn Qudaamah (rahimahullaah) and those who are not from this country (i.e. Saudi Arabia) can begin with any small text from the works in fiqh that he desires.
He can also begin studying under any particular madhhab that he desires but the madhhab of Imaam Ahmad (rahimahullaah) has the least amount of indifferences and has the least amount of issues which are Marjooh [i.e. unfavourable] for example, ‘Zaad al-Mustaqni’a’ is a short text and most of the issues presented in it are Rajih [i.e. favourable].
So you can take the concise text of ‘Umdaht al-Fiqh’ study and understand the issues presented in each chapter. For example, start with the chapter of water, read through it quickly and understand the different types of water and the fiqh related issues connected to water. After understanding the issues mentioned in this chapter move on reading this same chapter to a scholar, which is highly recommended.
If this is not possible, then he should read it to himself due to the fact that he may be someone of status in his community maybe a teacher or the likes of this and time may not permit him to sit with a scholar on a consistent basis. So he should read it to himself and if any discrepancies arise then he should ask the People of Knowledge.
How should the student of knowledge read the books of fiqh? This is a very important question, as many students of knowledge read books of fiqh but without the correct methodology. fiqh is a subject which is not like tawheed, as the issues related to tawheed are easy to visualise, for example, the issues related to the Characteristics of Allaah, generally they consist of the affirmation of these characteristics from the Qur’aan and the authentic Sunnah, and mention the false interpretations of those deviant sects who, for example, interpret the Uloo’ of Allaah to mean such and such or they interpret His Istiwaa’ over His Throne, in a manner which befits His Majesty, to mean such and such.
Thus to visualise these issues is simple and clear but the issues related to fiqh are not that simple, rather you have to visualise and understand them precisely in order that you do not confuse them with other issues similar to them. This is going to require from you as a student of knowledge to study fiqh precisely and gradually.
For example, water is categorised into three different types, so you say to yourself as you are studying: “How many types of water are there?” Then you answer yourself by saying: “There are three types of water and they are: “’Tahoor’…” then you say to yourself: “What is the definition of ‘tahoor’?” Etc. And this is the methodology you should follow when studying fiqh meaning questions and answers along with the definitions of these terminologies.
For example, the definition of ‘tahoor’ is the type of water which remains in its natural state, pure within itself and purifying. So your book actually becomes your teacher as you ask the question you refer to the answer from the book.
Likewise when dealing the conditions of a particular issue or its opposite then you ask questions which are appropriate to that topic, for example, you say: “Water which remains in its natural state, but is this the case all the time?” And the answer or explanation that water has different stages which is goes through depending on what mixes with it, all of this is found in the book.
The subject of Fiqh consists of two vital components:
The first: Visualisation
The second: Categorisation
The second component is the most beneficial thing for the student of knowledge as you can take any issue and say: “This is categorised into such and such categories.” For example, you say: “Those things which fall into water in its natural state are two types; the first is that which mixes with water, and the second is that which doesn’t mix with water…” And then you reply with what Ibn Qudaamah (rahimahullaah) mentioned in his book from the explanation of this issue and bring an example for each one.
You will find that Ibn Qudaamah does not concentrate in this particular book on those opinions which are favourable and that is because what is desired from you as a student of knowledge at this stage in your studies is to truly be a student and not a mufti. What is required from you as you study fiqh is to visualise the issues of fiqh and understand the terminologies of the People of Knowledge in the various chapters.
For example, begin with the concise version of ‘Zaad al-Mustaqni’a,’ because we know the original text of ‘Zaad al-Mustaqni’a’ consists of thirty thousand fiqh related issues, and it is not possible that the student of knowledge in the beginning of his studies, can memorise every issue with its proofs and evidences and know the favourable or unfavourable opinion in every issue!
Very few of the scholars of our time have explained ‘Zaad al-Mustaqni’a’ due to its extensiveness, as this was not the methodology which the scholars of the past followed when explaining certain subjects. They would take the concise texts and begin with them and this is much more beneficial for the student of knowledge, and after some time of following this methodology, those same students eventually became scholars.
This methodology is not present today as you find in some books that the explanation of one issue is extremely lengthy and this methodology does not allow the student to visualise the issue, as it is not possible for him to do so or memorise it due to the lengthy details and explanations. Rather the student is only able to understand the issue in light of that particular madhhab.
When you finish with the different categories of water, close the book and reiterate what you understood from the explanation, just as we mentioned previously, and you will notice during the course of your explanation whether you went to much too the east or too much to the west, and there is great distance between the two.
If there is any confusion between what you read in the book and what you hear from the Shaykh who teaches then go back to him and inform him that the fatwa which he gave is inconsistent with what you read in the text of the book and inform him that the Rajih (i.e. favourable opinion) which you see as a student is such and such, as the opinion of the scholar in every issue does not necessarily mean that it is the most favourable opinion, nor does it mean that the opinion of those who give fataawaa from the major scholars is always the most favourable opinion in the that particular issue.
Rather when he informs you of the fatwa of the scholars he is trying to connect you to the books of fiqh by mentioning to you the opinions of the scholars to allow you to envision the way they that understood the issue.
Our scholars from the People of Knowledge used to mention to us in detail this methodology when studying fiqh from ‘Zaad al-Mustaqni’a’ and from that which they would mention to us is that you have to visualise the issue and the verdict concerning it based upon what the author of the book mentioned.
For example, we ask: Does Shaykh-ul-Islam ibn Taymiyyah or his student Ibn Qayyim (rahimahumallaah) hold opinions which are contrary to the opinions of the Hanbali madhhab? Yes, because they examined that madhhab and clarified those opinions which were unfavourable and oppose the most accurate opinion.
For example, in the different types of water, your teacher may mention that water is three types and the position of Shaykh-ul-Islam is that water is two types, but you don’t need to go into the detailed justifications of every particular issue, nor does the teacher need to comment on every matter but he mentions this to show you the diversity in how the scholars understood things and the different fataawaa they gave based upon those understandings.
For example, he says: “Shaykh so and so‘s opinion in this issue is such and such or Shaykh bin Baaz’s (rahimahullaah) position in this issue is such and such,” and by this, he connects you to the issues of fiqh by showing you the diverse understandings which the scholars held and the fataawaa they issued based upon those understandings.
However to come to a particular issue and mention that the evidence for this is such and such and the scholars used as evidence such and such, this proof is mentioned in such and such book, and in the narration there is such and such narrator and some of the scholars spoke about him and because of that the hadeeth does not meet the conditions to substantiate this issue, and the this opinion is unfavourable and the most accurate opinion is the opinion of Ishaaq and Shaafi’ee, etc. etc. This is not what is required nor necessary for the new student of knowledge, except for the student who can absorb these types of detailed issues, can he read the more extensive books of fiqh.
Therefore objective of the Shaykh with the new student of knowledge is not to give him all of what he can recollect about every issue, this is not the methodology of the People of Knowledge; rather their methodology is to give you what will be most beneficial for you at this stage in your studies. In every chapter from the various chapters of fiqh, you study them by visualising the issues and absorbing concisely the most important matters mentioned therein, and after some time, you will develop principles that you will rely on in order to understand and clarify these issues, and you will be able to distinguish the favourable opinion from the unfavourable opinion along with their proofs, like building a wall from the ground up.
In the beginning you may only grasp ten percent of what you read, but you start with those matters which are most important and then those which are of less importance and gradually after one year you will grasp about fifteen percent and after two years about twenty percent until you can grasp all the issues related to fiqh in each chapter.
This is the correct methodology to follow when studying fiqh, but the path you find most of the students following today, where he has a tremendous amount of detailed and extensive information in one issue but if you were to ask him about other issues he is totally oblivious and void of any knowledge about them! This methodology of seeking knowledge is totally incorrect.
We are finished with the foundational sciences, and you continue with the secondary subjects which will assist you, as we mentioned previously, upon the same methodology. Begin with the concise works and then move on gradually to those more extensive books in that particular subject.
I will add to what I mentioned previously of those secondary subjects which will assist you as you go along in your studies, Islamic history and this includes the biography of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) like the Seerah of Ibn Hisham which is sufficient, and the other types of Islamic history.
It is also imperative for the student of knowledge to emphasise the sciences of tafseer, usool al-fiqh and usool al-hadeeth which, as we mentioned previously, is commonly known as mustalah hadeeth. Likewise the Arabic grammar, as you can not possibly acquire knowledge without the assistance of the Arabic grammar.
You find that some of the students of knowledge are not proficient in the Arabic language and his speech is broken and void of eloquence, so how can someone like this be trusted with understanding the meanings of the Qur’aan and the Sunnah and he doesn’t even understand the basics of the Arabic language?! He can not be trusted in reality; rather this type of student has to suffice himself with narrating and following exactly what he reads.
Many students come and present to me a picture that he is mujtahid in understanding an issue but his statements are inaccurate and his ability to express himself in Arabic is not good; rather by this, he shows me that he is not proficient in the Arabic language! There is no doubt that this is erroneous and it shows that the individual has not prioritised his subjects.
It is imperative for the student of knowledge to emphasise studying the Arabic language and the foundation of it is i’raab (i.e. syntax), read a concise text to a Shaykh, and afterwards you will have the ability to know the sentence structure in any newspaper, Surah from the Qur’aan or any hadeeth you read.
Some of the People of Knowledge would question their students during the lessons about the grammatical sentence structure of what they were reading, they would say: “What is the i’raab of such and such statement of Allaah?” And: “What is the i’raab of this sentence?” Trying to increase their awareness of the Arabic grammar and sentence structure. If you memorised ‘Alfiyahtu ibn Maalik’, you will reply that the i’raab is such and such and the proof is such and such. For example if your teacher asks you about the mubtada’a (i.e. subject) in a sentence you can respond by saying that Ibn Maalik says (such and such).
The proofs and evidences connect us to the Arabic grammar, but this methodology is rarely implemented today.
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